Tatiana Calderon completes first Super Formula test
Colombian Tatiana Calderon moved her first steps in the Super Formula car, as the series first collective tests went ahead at Fuji.
Former F2 racer and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Development driver Tatiana Calderon completed her first official pre-season test for the 2020 Super Formula championship, as the premier Japanese single-seater series decided to host its collective test at Fuji after previously cancelling a test in Suzuka.
Calderon was behind the wheel of the ThreeBond Drago Corse car for the first time and collected valuable data for the upcoming championship, when events will be given the green light.
During the two days on track, Calderon completed 156 laps around the 4,563m Fuji Circuit, successfully executing the testing program for the Japanese team that makes its racing return to the Super Formula championship after a three years hiatus.
The Colombian driver will become the third ever woman to enter a Super Formula season, the first in over 20 years and after the series rebranding.
“We had two days of testing - obviously I'm excited to be here for the first time, with such a fast car, with a different team and in a different culture." - said Calderon.
"With everything that is happening in the world, I think I am fortunate to be here and to be able to do what I like the most by sending my full support to everyone in these difficult times."
During the first day, the chilly weather slightly delayed the 2-hour morning session, further disrupted by two red flags in the opening minutes.
Calderon spun on her outlap at turn 10, as the series newcomer suffered a throttle issue.
Soon after, former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi crashed at turn 2, significantly damaging his KCMG car. The Japanese ace had therefore to sit out the rest of the morning session.
Ryo Hirakawa topped the timing sheets after the first two hours, with Calderon setting a 1:25.190 which sent the Colombian to the 19th place.
Hirakawa stayed on top for the afternoon session as well, narrowly beating 2018 Formula 2 driver Nirei Fukuzumi. Kamui Kobayashi returned on track for the afternoon action and was 12th fastest.
Series newcomers Sergio Sette Camara and Tatiana Calderon slightly struggled in the overall classify, but improved their laptimes: Sette Camara's efforts were hindered by technical troubles that forced the B-Max/Motopark driver to a long stop into the garage and finished 19th, one place ahead of Tatiana Calderon who lapped in 1:23.586 in her ThreeBond Drago Corse car.
It was Dandelion Racing Nirei Fukuzumi to climb the order in the second day opening session though, setting the fastest lap in 1:20.785. It was the best performance of the collective test so far, ahead of fellow Honda driver Tomoki Nojiri who had led the session until the very final two minutes.
Calderon was still 20th, but further improved her times and went into the lunch break with a 1:23.111 best lap.
When the action resumed, Nirei Fukuzumi held on to the top of the standings thanks to a 1:21.207 lap on fresher tyres in the final stages of the 130 minutes session. Ryo Hirakawa was second for team Impul but most of the drivers could not improve on their morning times.
Team TOM'S Kazuki Nakajima brought out the first red flag of the day when he spun at turn 4. Then the action was stopped again as Kamui Kobayashi suffered a puncture and went off.
His KCMG teammate, Yuji Kunimoto, reported a similar problem at turn 9, causing the third and final red flag of the day.
Tatiana Calderon had a clean session and finished P20, setting a 1:23.475 that further reduced her gap to the top of the classify.
"We collected a lot of information, there is still a lot to learn, but I am happy with the team's work and now wait for the next test in Suzuka, in a few days.” - concluded Calderon.
While the first scheduled test at Suzuka was previously cancelled, next week's test seems likely to go ahead, with a tightly controlled paddock.
However, the first two rounds of the championship - at Fuji and Suzuka - have already been postponed and there is still uncertainty regarding the Autopolis race, which should now open the 2020 season on May 17th.